Knitting vs. Crocheting: What’s the Difference, and How Should I Start?

Many of us have experienced the thoughtful person in our life who has made us a cool hat or scarf, and we wonder if we should also start knitting or crocheting in order to give those handmade gifts with love. A quick Google search shows tons of tutorials, patterns, things to buy, and we quickly become overwhelmed, returning to gift cards as our fallback.

I’m here to tell you that you CAN create beautiful, handmade gifts using knitting or crochet, and you don’t have to break your bank or your schedule to do it. The question most people start with: should I knit, or crochet, and what’s the difference? Well, that’s where I can help. I’ve been doing both for years, and hopefully, we can get you started today!

Tutorials on knitting and crocheting are all over the internet, but I’m doing to try to combine what you need to know in one place. If you aren’t seeing what you’re looking for – scroll down! 🙂

What’s the Difference?

Although both crafts use yarn/thread and tools, the biggest difference is in the type of tools and the type of stitches. Knitting needles are used in pairs: either separate needles for straight work like scarves, or connected needles to make things like socks, hats, and sweaters. Crochet uses one needle, with a hook on the end – so we just call it a crochet hook. There are variants of the hook, with workable ends on either side, very long hooks, etc, but for regular crocheting, let’s just stick with the normal hook.

The other main difference is in stitch type. In knitting, every single stitch is made of one or both of the two basic knitting stitches: knit, and purl. No matter what the stitch is, it is a variant of those two basic stitches, and once you master them, building up your stitch library is simple! Even cables on beautiful Irish sweaters are knit/purl combinations! The stitches are held on the needles, and as you work, you move the stitches from one needle to the other. These are called ‘live’ stitches.

Crocheting, however, has a wider variety of stitches, based on how you use the yarn, where it’s placed, and how you process the stitch and connect it to others. There are some basic stitches that will get you on your way, but in order to create ripples, designs, and interesting shapes, it does take some practice. Crochet doesn’t have live stitches like knitting (except for Tunisian crochet), and instead, knots each stitch to the work beneath and behind it.

So, to sum up: Knitting has two needles, and two stitches (essentially). Crocheting only requires that you master one tool (hook), but has many stitches to learn, based on what you want your final product to look like!

What Do You Want to Make?

Ask 100 crafters which method is better for crafting hats, socks, afghans, or any other product commonly made with yarn, and you will get 100 different reasons for why each one is better. It comes down to personal preference, although there are some yarn types which lend themselves to specific methods. Some crochet work is done with very fine thread, and hand knitting rarely utilizes thread that small, unless you’re knitting lace.

The differences appear in the completed work. Crafters can often distinguish between knitted work and crochet, while people who don’t do either often cannot tell the work apart. It is really up to you to determine which appearance you like better! It is sometimes more difficult to fit crocheted work in garments such as sweaters, cardigans, or socks, and knitwork may take a bit longer for blankets, depending on the style.

What Do You Need?

So, you’ve decided that you want to give this a try and make a dishcloth. You loved that one that someone gave you that one time, because it lasted forever, and it can’t be that hard – it’s a square! Well, you’re right! Let’s find you some tools for both knitting and crocheting a useful item that I guarantee people will ask you for more of (especially if you give it as a gift!)

1. Needles or Crochet Hook: For needles, let’s start with a size 7, and for crochet, a size F hook.

2. Cotton Yarn: For a dishcloth, cotton yarn is a must, since it can be washed over and over without losing shape. Sugar ‘n Cream is my personal favorite since it is easy to work with and comes in a ton of colors.  Stay away from darker colors for the first project, as stitches can be more difficult to see.

3. Scissors

4. Yarn needle, or a needle with an eye large enough for the yarn to fit through.

You can find these items at your local craft store, or by clicking any of the links on this page.

Knitting Patterns and Crochet Patterns

You’ve got your knitting or crochet supplies, now to find a pattern for your dishcloth. Reading patterns can be daunting, which is why I’m going to break down some of the lingoes.  Below are patterns for both knitted and crocheted dishcloths. Feel free to use these!  Below the written patterns are videos for you to learn how to cast on, knit, bind off, and crochet.  If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below, and check back for more tutorials! Keep practicing!!


How to Knit a Dishcloth

Instructions:

Note: you make this dishcloth from one corner, diagonally to the opposite corner.

  • Cast on 4 stitches.
  • Row 1: Knit 4.
  • Row 2: Knit 2, yarn over, knit across the row.
  • Repeat Row 2 until you have 46 stitches on the needle.
  • Row 3: Knit 1, Knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit to the end of the row.
  • Repeat Row 3 until you have 6 stitches on the needle.
  • Bind off, cut the yarn (to about 6 inches), and weave back into the dishcloth using a needle

That’s a lot of lingo. There are many ways to cast on, but below, you can see a video of an easy way. I’m also going to walk you through what those bolded terms mean.  When you get to the end of a row, turn the work around, and simply work back in the stitches on that row. You can see that there are no “purl” stitches in this pattern. Practice your knit stitch until you’re comfortable with it, then come back here and we’ll tackle purling. 🙂

Yarn over: You’ll see “yarn over” in both knitting and crochet. This means to bring the working yarn (the yarn connected to the ball) over the hook, making an extra loop. This makes another stitch (a stitch increase) and creates a gap in the fabric.

Knit 2 together: This is also sometimes written as “K2tog”. This is a way of decreasing the number of stitches on the needle.  Basically, you are knitting the next two stitches together as if they were one stitch. Push your needle through the next two loops on the needle, and knit a normal stitch.

Bind off: This is the way to finish the work. There are as many different methods of binding off as there are of casting on, and you can see an easy-to-follow video below. 


How to Crochet a Dishcloth: 

Instructions:

  • Ch. 27 stitches
  • SC into the second chain from hook, then sc across
  • Turn work and ch. 1
  • SC into first space, and SC across
  • Repeat until desired size, usually a square
  • Fasten off, and weave in ends

Alright, so the lingo here is a little different from knitting. You’ll see right away that they drop you into the abbreviations!

Ch: This is a chain stitch or the foundation for crochet. Chain stitches begin with a slip knot, and below you will find instructions for beginning and executing a chain stitch.

SC: This is the abbreviation for “single crochet”, or the most basic crochet stitch after the chain stitch. I have included a tutorial video below. Keep in mind that “single crochet” in the US is referred to as “double crochet” in the UK.

Fasten off and weave in ends: Fastening off is the crochet version of binding off, and weaving in ends means to hide the tails from both the beginning and ending knots within the finished work.


This pattern doesn’t use increasing and decreasing stitches like the knitting pattern does. You should have the same amount of stitches in every row. If you find that you’re increasing or decreasing, well, we all do that sometimes. Keep going and finish your cloth, then try another one and try to find how you can improve.

Knitting Videos:

Crochet Videos:

Slip Knot and Chain Stitch

Single Crochet (US) / Double Crochet (UK)

Fastening Off and Weaving in Ends

16 thoughts on “Knitting vs. Crocheting: What’s the Difference, and How Should I Start?

  1. As one gets older you want to keep busy but can’t be too active anymore. This is a perfect way to still have a purpose and be creative. I have a friend in her eighties and knits wool blankets in the form of blocks and then join them for winter, everybody stands queue to get a nice warm one.
    Your explanation with videos is excellent and for a new comer easy to follow. Will book mark your site for future reference.
    Thank you I enjoyed reading your site.
    Stella
    Bush Lady

    1. Thank you so much, Stella! I love that young women are picking up the art again and that it’s not getting lost in the world of technology. I have an afghan that my grandmother made for me, and it still sits on my bed. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  2. I had always assumed that crocheting was easier to learn than knitting, but from your explanation and with all the numerous stitches, it seems like crocheting might actually be harder. I’ve never learned how to do either, because they both seemed really difficult to master. But I think with the video instructions you included to help me understand the terminology like “yarn over” . I’ll be sharing your site with my daughter who enjoys crocheting, as well.

    Thank you for putting this site together for people like myself who get overwhelmed at all the different things involved with creating some of our favorite things!

    Karin

    1. Ooh, Karin, i’m so excited to hear that your daughter crochets! They are both really much less difficult than they look. I hope you get to start crafting some of your favorite things!! Thank you for the comment 🙂

      1. Hilary,

        My daughter has made a ton of blankets and other things by crocheting. She always wants to show me how, but I am “afraid” to try. Personally, I have really enjoyed cross-stitching. I never thought I would because I am not a “crafty” person, but I found myself really good at it and was surprised at how relaxing it was!

        Anyway, just wanted you to know we are really enjoying your site.
        Karin 🙂

        1. Karin, thank you! You should definitely try! You will fill awkward and fumbly for the first little bit, but after your hands get used to the movements, it’s truly relaxing to sit and be. 🙂 My mother cross stitches, and it’s so beautiful! I’m so glad you are enjoying the site! Thanks again for your comment!

  3. Very helpful post on knitting vs. crocheting here. I honestly didn’t know a whole lot about the differences so coming across your post I find it to be very informative. Nice to know that knitting involves one or two needles while crocheting uses a hook. Funny how there can be 100 different opinions. Oh how I would like to be a fly on the wall during that debate! I’ve always known about knitting but crocheting is something new, so I’m looking forward to reading more into it. Thanks again for this very insightful post!

    1. You’re very welcome! I hope you decide to pick up one or both of them! It’s super helpful to have something to distract your fingers while you’re watching television, sitting in a coffeeshop or brewery, or just relaxing at home. 

  4. This is a nice handwork that doesn’t deserve to go into extinct. I could remember very well how I managed to learn how to crochet cap through learning from my mum. It was an amazing moment getting busy with a art work like that. I used single needle that looks like hook. I can spend two days to make a net cap with getting tired. We can also call this art ‘an income yielding craft’. Thanks for reminding us about this art work.

    1. Thank you Stella! I love the stories of people who remember their times with loved ones centered around crafts. Isn’t it interesting that THESE are the kinds of things we remember, not ‘remember that time with Mom when we were both on our phones?’ I’m glad you have happy memories about this 🙂

  5. My grandmother used to knit and crochet. It’s one thing that I wish I had learned from her before she passed. But this post has given me a sense of direction and I can now jump on the crocheting bandwagon (maybe knitting later). Thank you. 😊

    1. Wonderful! I love that so many people remember their loved ones through craftiness! It really does carry on a tradition. I hope you enjoy it!! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  6. I read your article and enjoyed reading it. I found it very informational especially because I am starting out on crocheting and my biggest problem was not knowing about the correct crochet needles and type of yarn in order to make my blanket correctly.
    I want to thank you for making it easier for me to finish my first crocheting project.
    Chya “CeeCee” Cunningham

    1. CeeCee, I hope you are able to finish your project! I’d love to see it when it’s done. 😀 It’s always so wonderful how many people want to try, or have started to try crochet or knitting, get discouraged, and then come back to it later. I hope you enjoy finishing it!

  7. Hi Hilary,

    I have a question. As, there is the option for knitting and crocheting, do we need both for different situations? And, if we compare both methods, we see that both can be challenging.

    Why is it more difficult to fit crocheted work in garments such as sweaters, cardigans or socks as such? I also wanted to know why knit work may take a bit longer for blankets, as you said the dependence on style?

    And, thanks for the tutorial videos as it can be sometimes hard to understand some instructions from just writing. Well, my aunt used to knit a lot back in the days when I was a kid so I basically knew a littl bit about knitting. As, in our local culture crocheting is not that popular or known, so I didn’t know about it much. Your post really helped me to understand the aspects as it was really informative.

    1. Hi there, thanks for the questions! You can use knitting or crocheting for most things, but crochet garments tend to lose their shape faster than knit ones, and they can vary much more in size. For blankets, while crochet uses more yarn than knitting does, its stitches can be much bigger (like treble crochet) so you can work up a larger piece more quickly than knitting back row to row. I’m glad you remember your aunt and her craft! thanks for taking the time to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close